Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Jension High School

by: oldbenkenobi

Last weekend, Great Lakes Base and Great Lakes Garrison took part in Jenison High School (west Michigan) homecoming pregame fundraiser for “Make-A-Wish."  The fundraiser featured carnival type games and a bounce house for kids to play inside.  We helped out by having troopers and myself available to have picture taken with fans; including my new friend you see in this picture.  Overall, the night was a big success!  

The true star of the night was a little boy who had already had his “wish” granted.  He had his “Jedi training” at Disney World and wouldn't you know it --  a Jedi was there that night to give the young man more training! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cincinnati Comic Expo

It was a busy weekend in downtown Cincinnati, between “Octoberfest”, homecoming weekend for University of Cincinnati, the Bengals were at home vs. the Titans on Sunday, as well as Cincinnati Comic Expo.  Members from Great Lakes Base, Ohio Garrison and Rancor Clan were all in attendance – along with friends from nearby Kentucky – for Ohio’s largest comic book convention.

Because of changes to Episode VII filming schedule, Peter Mayhew was forced to cancel his appearance.  David Prowse also had to cancel, due to knee surgery.  Yet shortly after that news, it was announced a trio of Boba Fetts: Daniel Logan, Dickey Beers (stunts) and John Morton -- also known for “Dak” from Empire Strikes Back -- would replace Mayhew and Prowse on the Cincy Expo guest list.  This was the first time John Morton has appeared at a convention in Great Lakes Base, so the boys from Shadow Squadron made sure to offer him a proper welcome. (more on that in upcoming posts)

photo courtesy Kristie Johnson
Another big debut this weekend was for the Ohio Garrison “Detention Block” display booth.  Joining last year’s Speeder Bike and full-sized Dewback -- provided by Midsouth Garrison -- was a full-sized Death Star detention block, complete with two working “cells” where people could be held prisoner as part of the “Bounty Hunt” charity fundraiser.  For a small donation, folks were given lanyards to walk around the convention floor – where troopers from Ohio Garrison and bounty hunters from Rancor Clan would “arrest” them, and place them inside the detention block for about 5 minutes; or until someone paid to “bail” them out first.  The proceeds from this weekend’s went to Families with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) -- a local autism support group. 

While we here at Great Lakes Base typically do our best to foil the Empire’s efforts, we did manage to help sign up several people for the charity fundraiser – I even helped a few evade capture from Troopers and Mercs for a little while longer!  Together, we helped raise just over $600 for the organization.  To learn more visit: http://www.familieswithasd.org

Along with the Star Wars actor guests on the lineup, Cincinnati Comic Expo featured a pair of local artists with ties to Star Wars.  One of the headline artists was longtime friend, Ohio native and Rebel Legion Honorary Member – Joe Corroney.  Also setting up shop along “artist alley” was aspiring artist and actual Great Lakes Base member Travis Perkins; who’s done several projects for us over the years.  If you are a fan of Star Wars artwork, I highly recommend you visit both of their respective tables and pickup something for your wall at home.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Detroit Tigers "Star Wars Night"

My first MLB game away from home was at the old Tigers Stadium… vs. the Cleveland Indians!  Some of my greatest memories at Indians home games were always against the Detroit Tigers.  Back in high school, I used to own matching “home” and “away” Tigers baseball hats, direct from the team’s clubhouse -- a gift from my dad’s old Navy buddy, who took us to that game at Tiger Stadium years ago.  So when the Detroit Tigers hosted the Cleveland Indians for this year’s “Star Wars Night” -- you can imagine how much I needed to be there.

In fact, Tigers “Star Wars Night” has become something of an annual tradition for the members of Great Lakes Base and Great Lakes Garrison.  Going back to 2011, the Detroit Tigers have hosted a Star Wars-themed game and has been a crowd favorite ever since.  Organizing an event of this size can be like leading an entire campaign vs. a single battle, and Michigan Captain “kcjohnson” did an amazing job in his first year coordinating this event, on behalf of us Rebels.  In fact, the Tigers game is so special to groups like us -- Snips92 arranged to fly directly to Detroit (from work trip in Boston) just so she wouldn’t miss the opportunity to troop this game!

Now, understand that events like this tend to make for a LONG day for us.  We arrive at Comerica Park around 2:30pm and once everyone is checked in and security looks through our armor bins… then we make our way down to the lower levels, where (much like a relief pitcher) it’s off the bullpen to wait.  Later, once everyone is suited up -- we march outside for a massive group photo, under the giant tiger statue in front of the ballpark.  Unfortunately, we happen to run into a bridal party – who didn’t seem to get the hint that while for the bride this may be “her day”… we’re kinda on a tight schedule.

photo courtesy Kristie Johnson
Once the “David Tutera” drama was over, we head back inside and spread out around Comerica Park to welcome fans as they enter the ballpark.  My group was stationed up on the 300 level, which was rather chilly for mid-September.  As time moved closer to first pitch, we made our way back down to the right field tunnel, for the Star Wars character parade around the field during pregame introductions.  Members of the Michigan Philharmonic played a medley of Star Wars music as we marched around the warning track.  A small group of characters got to take part in the opening pitch ceremony, with Boba Fett getting the call this year.

After that, it was time to meet the fans and take pictures… LOTS of pictures!  If you were lucky enough to make it over where the team had special “Star Wars Night” backdrops (great!) -- otherwise, you just paired up with a few other characters and just braced for wave after wave of photo-ops with fans!  The crowd was super excited to see us, and I always seem to get mobbed by the cute girls whenever I troop in Detroit -- think I should relocate here? ;)

Unfortunately (for us Tribe fans) Alex Avila hit a 2-run homer in the 8 th, giving the Tigers a 5-4 win over the Indians.  It still was fun to be back in Detroit, watching my two favorite teams play each other -- but this time I had to represent CLE by wearing my "Chief Wahoo" hat backstage.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Geek Fan Expo

by: flutefreak05

Today I attended Geek Fan Expo in Dearborn, MI where Timothy Zahn was giving a panel.  A week before, I wrote on his facebook page saying, “Hello Mr. Zahn, I look forward to meeting you with some EOF the 501st members of the Great Lakes Garrison next Saturday at Dearborn fan expo. I will be representing the flagship eclipse as Mara Jade.”

His response was “Wonderful! I'll look forward to seeing you there.”

Right before his panel I saw him walking in the hallway and he came up to me and said, “hello Emperor’s Hand.”  I introduced myself to him and told him I was the one who had written on his Facebook wall and he remembered me; it was one of the best feelings in the world.  He posed for a couple pictures with me and I attended his Q and A panel about his writings.  I raised my hand the same time as another attendee and Timothy Zahn said, “sorry, the Emperor’s Hand gets priority!”  

After the panel he signed my copy of “Choices of One” for me and posed for a photo with both the 501st members present (DS31694 and TK51505).  We visited his table and he continued to talk to us making us feel special.  It was an honor to meet the author that created the character I do and he was decked out in 501st items.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Wookiee's Guide to Dragon*Con

by: Bacca9

This was my first ever Dragon*Con and my experience could not have been more positive.  I learned three very important facts the first day: #1. Atlanta is hot and fur makes it hotter (i.e. HYDRATE!) #2. Despite warnings from Lumpy, I never realized that Chewie is in fact a rock star. #3. Con people are the best kind of people -- for the most part.

I arrived late Thursday night (early Friday morning?) and had to walk two blocks to the hotel; scary for a tiny ginger like myself. Luckily, I was adopted by a fellow con-goer, who escorted me to my hotel and saved me from a particularly shady local.  I promptly crashed as soon as I got my stuff (Wookiee and all) into the room.

Friday was an early day what with having to get my badge, a process I was told could take hours.  It took less than 2 minutes = Win!  The rest of the day was Wookiee-filled, with the prelim judging for the Star Wars costume contest and generally not moving more than a couple feet at a time.  I was amazed by the number of ridiculously awesome costumes wandering around the Marriot and Hyatt and humbled by the fact that a lot of them wanted photos with me.

Saturday was another early morning: up at 7:00am and ready by 8:00am to meet with my fellow Rebels and Imperials for the big Dragon*Con Parade… have I mentioned how HOT Atlanta is?  I’m not the only one who was drenched before we reached the staging area.  Thank God for Boy Scouts!  Young members of the local troop were walking among the costumers distributing cold water bottles, as many as you could drink!  They were even kind enough to open mine for me.  Not sure what merit badge they were going for, but those kids certainly earned it!  The parade itself was an experience, I was lucky to have been offered a spot on the back of the Legion truck,  so Chewie was riding -- in style.  Alex, the Anakin Skywalker I was with, was an absolute crowd pleaser, getting everyone all riled and shouting.  Can’t say for sure how many of us there were, but I can tell you that they put us at the end of the parade because Star Wars groups are by far the crowd favorite.  I was really impressed by the “Planet of the Apes”, “Doctor Who”, and “Once Upon a Time” groups.  Every costume stood out in some way and you could tell they spent as much time and effort on their suits as we do on ours.
photo courtesy Hero Dreams

I got to sleep in on Sunday…until 8:30am.  The Star Wars photo shoot was scheduled for 10:30am and the Star Wars Costume Contest was at 1:00pm; no rest for the Wookiee.  I met some absolutely fantastic people at the shoot.  We even did a tribute photo with the Colonial Fleet “Battlestar Galactica” group -- in honor of a member from both groups, who passed away this past year.  I didn’t know the man, but I can tell you, he was loved and he certainly will be missed.  The rest of the shoot was just as eventful.  I walked up a lot of stairs with the help of a Jedi and A-Wing Pilot, had my picture taken a lot, then walked back down the stairs without falling (thank you again, Jedi and Pilot).

Time flew by rather quickly and I was excited to be in my first ever costume contest with my first ever costume.  There were probably a thousand people in the room watching as I took the stage, first of the face character category, and promptly got my foot stuck in the steps and fell.  I’m fine, a bit embarrassed… but I’m a natural ham, so I got up (with the help of a rather large gentleman) and swaggered over to the MC, and gave him a big Wookiee kiss.  Everyone was fretting and fussing when I left the stage, but after they realized I really was fine -- the subject was dropped.  There were so many amazing and creative costumes present.  My personal favorite won the judges’ choice award.  A beautifully done Queen Amidala in purple brocade and a towering hairdo.  She was in my category along with a Luke Skywalker that was a dead ringer for Mark Hamil, another Chewbacca, and several other high quality work.  So imagine my surprise when they came to the face characters category and called my name!  I didn’t even have my mask on at that point!  I was floored.  The rest of the categories were a bit of a haze because I was still in shock.  When it came time to announce “Best in Show” I wasn’t even paying attention; I knew it had to be Amidala? Yet when they called my name, I figured it was about time to put my mask back on. (haha) Thank God for Angela, my Jedi pal and handler, who kept me focused and carried my trophies and certificates.  I was even more honored when the top ten Star Wars costumes at Dragon*Con were announced and Chewie was number one on the list.  It all means so much to me and I encourage everyone to get out there, be who you want, build what you want, go to Cons, and above all, have fun.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

FanExpo Canada

It has been a few years since I journeyed to Toronto for FanExpo Canada, this year was extra special as it marked the 20 th anniversary for Canada’s largest comic book convention.  Because our Base is so close to the Canadian border at various locations, several members from Great Lakes Base made the trip up for FanExpo.  Lumpy and Mickay crossed on the Michigan side, whereas Snips and I made the Kessel Run (via Buffalo, NY) in less then 12 parsecs -- which after trying to convert miles to kilometers for 5-6 hours doesn’t seem like much.

One of the first things you see you enter the show floor was the massive booth display by Canadian Base, 501st Canadian Garrison and R2-Builders.  On one side, you have a full sized Death Star hallway -- complete with display Imperial props and costumes.  In the middle, you can lookup information on all three groups on working computers in a mockup of the Death Star hanger control room.  Next to that was the “Shoot-A-Trooper” Tantive IV doorway.  On the opposite side of the door was the Tantive IV hallway, where Garrick Hagon (“Biggs Darklighter” from Star Wars: A New Hope) was appearing and signing autographs, as special guest of all the groups.  Plus, full-sized photo booth -- all raising money for Make-A-Wish Canada.

For me, FanExpo was a chance to reunite with my old friend Jedi XXL from Hawkbat Squadron.  Gil and I go way back, and it’s always a good time when Shadow Squadorn and Hawkbat Squadron get together.  As I said earlier, Garrack Hagon was setup over on the Tantive IV side of the booth -- signing autographs and taking picture with fans over in the Tantive IV.  A few Stormtroopers had also taken up position there for pictures with fans; that is until more of us Rebel Pilots started showing up.  It was kinda funny to watch them slowly retreat to a different area as more and more people wanted pictures with the Rebel Legion!


Another highlight of the weekend was the official FanExpo group photo.  The first thing is trying to march a small army of troopers and rebels from the booth (located in the north building) up and down several escalators, across a bridge, and past couple thousand people.  The local guys did an amazing job coordinating with con security to clear us a path through the convention center.  Then, it’s a lot of stand around and wait… and wait, as they line us up and clear the floor as people are trying to exit the con.  Later Garrack Hagon as well as Albin Johnson (founder of 501st) joined us for the group photo.

On Sunday, I had the chance to meet Steve Blum, the voice of “Zeb” in the upcoming Star Wars Rebels.  We talked about the new show and he’s looking forward to meeting more Rebel Legion members at future conventions. Great guy!!!

Thanks to our hosts from Canadian Base and Canadian Garrison, along with R2-Builders for a great weekend of trooping!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Bishyyyk Trooper Project

At this year’s “Bish Bash” fundraiser, Matt “Grumpy” Lindon presented Michael and Cindy Bish (Sam’s parents) with an extra special gift: their own personalized Kashyyyk clonetrooper helmet – decorated in the colors and style of The Sam Bish Foundation.

“Now, I can't tell you what made me do this,” admits Grumpy. “I just felt I should and that it was a good thing to do. I just had to make it.”

As the CO of Great Lakes Base’s Umbara Squad – Grumpy is used to paying close attention to detail when it comes to clontrooper armor. Now, turn that project into a labor of love for the Bish family and this armor is more “work of art” then just another costume project.  Grumpy painted each of the three chest plates and the Kashyyyk clonetrooper helmet (by hand) and personalized each of them with both screen-accurate Star Wars detail as well as various symbols of The Sam Bish Foundation – including the monarch butterfly and yellow ribbon – as well as messages like “In Memory of Sam Bish” (but in Aurebesh – of course)

“I was really a bit overwhelmed by such a generous and beautiful gift.  It was very creative and so well done,” said Michael Bish

Grumpy has a history of going above and beyond the call – where the Bish family is concerned. Four years ago, several of us from Great Lakes Base, Ohio Garrison and Rancor Clan were invited to visit nine-year-old Sam Bish, during his battle with a rare form of bone cancer (Osteosarcoma).  Sam loved Star Wars and the more we witnessed his bravery and that of his parents… it left a lasting mark on each one of us.  Later, when the Bish family invited us to participate in a CureWalk event in Columbus – Grumpy was on the front line, with Sam’s initials painted on his helmet. Then for the inaugural “Bish Bash” – Grumpy personalized one of his Commander Bly chest plates in memory of Sam and the foundation named after him.  This year, the entire Lindon family of clones got involved.

“Ever since meeting Sam, Mike, Cindy, and Courtney, my eyes have been opened to what happens with the kids and their families,” Grumpy reflects. “To lose a child to cancer really breaks me up.”

Michael adds, “It continues to show us what an impact Sam had on the lives he touched, whether he met them for just a moment or not at all.  He continues (even after four years after his passing) to touch so many people.  We are so blessed to have the support of such an amazing group of people and knowing that you all "have our back".  Thank you simply does not begin to show our gratitude to the 501st and Rebel Legion.  You all are family to us and hold a very dear spot in the hearts of the Bish Family.”